dsc00309Her name was Judith.  She is 78 years of age.

Her tiny body frame had curvature from a slightly arched back however, she held eye contact when conversing.  And although she spoke with a British accent, she had weathered the New Zealand enunciation from having lived here so long.  Her current place of residence is Wanganui.

Taking the bus to Tongariro National Park, she had booked into the YHA Hostel for three nights.  Rapport was quick when she threw out a smile and salutation greeting.  She did this with everyone whom glanced her way.  Only the very young didn’t bother to acknowledge her presence perhaps seeing some old woman out of character in a youth hostel.

When we arrived back after our crossing on Christmas Day, she had perched herself in a corner.  Probably sat there all day as her ability to walk very far was limited due to her now frailness.  A plastic bag with goodies to keep her nourished and a book borrowed from the Library.  Yet, her smile of belonging was infectious.  There was further communication describing our day on the volcanic tundra and then it was our turn.  We listened to her describing her experiences of walking the lands back in the 70’s.  Those days for her are long gone but she painted the picture as if she too had joined us on our walk only a few hours earlier.

Another family trying to co-share the oven had their pork roll generate smoke to fog the kitchen and dining area but luckily, didn’t set off the smoke alarm.  We changed method to microwave and then pan fry our vegetables to accompany our medium rare steak.  Judith shared her icing sugar for us to sprinkle on our strawberries.  It was our Christmassy treat and certainly masked the bitterness zing of just a raw berry.

Catching a train to Palmerston North and then a bus to Wanganui, Judith was returning home today.  We asked how she was getting to the station 800 metres down the road.  I’ll just walk and my suitcase has wheels.  BClaire escorted her pulling the handle for Judith and there was time for BClaire to shout a coffee at the station café.  A return treat for her icing sugar donation.

Judith has no immediate family in New Zealand.  Some nephews and nieces but they have their own lives.  She has lots of friends and associations which begged the question why she would come to the YHA hostel at the Park to spend Christmas Day?  We have yet to experience solitude loneliness at an old age.  Even then we would want to be around fellow beings to share in the emotion the day itself conjures up.  Even a cat would suffice we suppose!

Our inquisitive minds asked the question, why here Judith?  Why have you come to the Park to spend your Christmas day with total strangers?

Her response:

”If I had of stayed at home, there would be too many people who would make a fuss over me and I get that all year.  This was a place I could get to with public transport.  It’s a place to be able to have some quiet time in my own space.  I chose this place because it’s where nature can be seen from the window and, this place brings back some fond memories of when I traversed the view I could see from where I sat.  The people I have met here during my time keeps my memories young.  Whilst I still can remember.”

We have arranged to meet up for another coffee when we arrive into Wanganui after the canoeing section of the Te Araroa Trail.

The loveliest genuine smile you could ever wish for in a fellow being.

The place wasn’t the same without her presence today.  But remembered.